Overwhelmed looks like many things. Heightened arousal in terms of fight, flight or freeze, zoning out, forgetfulness, irritability, snapping at our colleagues or loved ones, not answering calls, disconnecting from those around us.
The thing about reaching overwhelmed, is that there is a trajectory to get there. We don't just suddenly find ourselves there. We have an internal experience that ramps up and ramps up and then.... we arrive. Flustered usually.
I find that too often we overlook the warning signs that our bodies and brains send us. Usually we don't pay attention to this voice or feeling in the name of achieving the task that we have set ourselves. We push and push and push. "Just one more email, one more call, one more group message response, get the washing in, "I'll be there in a minute". There is an invisible boundary that we each have, that signals that we are close to our own personal line. That we have done too much. Or perhaps gone too far.
Obviously if you pay attention to your voice and adhere to your internal needs, you won't hit overwhelmed. But this post is for those, like me, who often find themselves in a state of overwhelm.
Here's how to bring yourself back, and to get better at not going there
1. Ground yourself: This is where you take a moment to orient yourself in your body. Perhaps you close your eyes in your chair, listen to noises in the room, feel your feet on the floor, take deep breaths, do a body scan for feelings of tension. Basically you tune in and reconnect with yourself. The opposite of feeling overwhelmed, where we tend to disconnect as it has all become too much.
2. Reorient: Once you are reconnected with yourself, take a moment to work out where you are in your day. Prioritise and notice areas which are elevating tension.
3. Phone a friend: Or work through yourself what is overloading you. Is it something you don't know how to do, is it something you don't understand, or is it someone you don't know how to respond to. Or is it that it is an impossible task and you haven't realised that yet.
4. Avoid blaming, justifying or defending: In this moment, you are looking to take responsibility for what belongs to you, and respectfully not picking up that which doesn't.
5. Make a plan that includes self care: A plan allows us to relax and achieve something in bite sized chunks, it also allows us to better resource the tasks, or space them out. Now make sure you are filling up your own buckets. You are irreplaceable my friend.
How do you manage your feelings of overwhelm?